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Complementary theories to supply chain management

Arni Halldorsson (School of Management, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK, and University of Reykjavik, Reykjavik, Iceland)
Herbert Kotzab (Department of Operations Management, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)
Juliana H. Mikkola (Department of Operations Management, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)
Tage Skjøtt‐Larsen (Department of Operations Management, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 26 June 2007




The paper seeks to discuss and develop SCM as a scientific discipline using different theories from non‐logistics areas to explain inter‐organizational phenomena. It also attempts to establish a frame of reference that allows us to mitigate the gap between the current SCM research and practice and the theoretical explanations of how to structure and manage supply chains.


The paper introduces three different perspectives that together will contribute to a broader understanding of SCM in practice: an economic perspective; a socio‐economic perspective; and a strategic perspective. The theoretical framework is applied to two important research topics within SCM: third party logistics (TPL); and new product development (NPD).


There is no such thing as “a unified theory of SCM”. Depending on the concrete situation, one can choose one theory as the dominant explanatory theory, and then complement it with one or several of the other theoretical perspectives.

Research limitations/implications

The way the four theories complement one another is explored on a conceptual basis, but further research into this direction may explore more deeply how these alleged complementarities occur in practice, and how managers mould their decisions by these ideas.

Practical implications

The four theories can provide normative support to important management decisions in supply chains, such as outsourcing, safeguards against opportunism, and alignment of incentives.


The main contribution is that one cannot rely on one theoretical explanation when analyzing phenomena in SCM. It is neccessary to consider several theories and how they may complement one another in order to provide a more comprehensive view of SCM.



Halldorsson, A., Kotzab, H., Mikkola, J.H. and Skjøtt‐Larsen, T. (2007), "Complementary theories to supply chain management", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 284-296.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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